Delaware County officials on Saturday announced no new cases of the novel coronavirus as they tried to calm uneasy residents worried about the singular case of the virus in the county.
County council member Monica Taylor said officials do not have the authority to release the address of the lone woman in Delaware County with COVID-19, and she emphasized that social media rumors about her location are wrong.
Fellow councilwoman Elaine Schaefer highlighted state efforts to track down anyone who was in close contact with the woman and reiterated that releasing an address “does not really have a public health benefit.”
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“If you were in contact with this person, you would know it. You would already have been contacted by the state,” she said.
Taylor underscored that the Pennsylvania Department of Health is undertaking the investigation into the patient due to the fact the Delaware County does not have its own public health department. If it did, she said, officials would have the authority to release more information.
“We would love to have more access to the information ourselves,” she said. However, she noted that even if the county had a health department, they would likely not release the woman’s address due to patient confidentiality concerns.
Meanwhile, the state health department is also prohibited from releasing identifying information unless there is an imminent threat, she said.
Efforts have been underway since January to establish a county health department but could take 18-24 months to complete, Taylor said.
Delaware County Officials have also signed an emergency declaration, which Emergency Services Department Head Timothy Boyce said provides increased support for agencies responding to the coronavirus outbreak and expands officials’ authority to do things like change or cancel access to public meetings as a way to prevent the virus from spreading.
“It just streamlines the process for a very dynamic event,” he said.
Schafer also addressed concerns of parents to school-age children, saying that the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not advising school closures. Most school districts are doing extra cleaning this weekend, and the final decision about whether or not to close campuses will be made by the individual districts, she said.
The coronavirus case in Delaware County is one of two that Gov. Tom Wolf announced in Pennsylvania. The second positive case is an adult in Wayne County, which is near Scranton in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Both people are considered presumptive positive for COVID-19, which means local testing came back positive, but results must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Samples have been sent to the federal lab.
The pair are in “good physical condition” and self-quarantined in their own homes, with state health officials checking on their health status by phone on a daily basis, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.
The new strain of coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China and spread outwardly. Globally, more than 102,000 people had been infected, according to a Johns Hopkins University dashboard of cases, which aggregates various public health sources. In the United States, at least 340 confirmed cases have been reported, with at least 14 deaths.
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, muscle pain or fatigue and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The virus has an incubation period – the time between exposure and the first appearance of symptoms – of about five days.
COVID-19 is spread mainly from person-to-person when droplets from an infected person who coughs or sneezes land on someone else’s nose or mouth or enter their lungs, according to the CDC. It can also be spread when someone touches their own mouth, nose and possibly eyes after coming into contact with a surface that has the virus on it.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the CDC recommends frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol – wiping down dirty surfaces and using the inside of the elbow to cover a cough or sneeze.
Those with the highest risk of contracting the disease are older people with underlying chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, according to the CDC.
Schafer urged level-headedness with the virus present in Delaware County.
“Everybody keep calm and wash your hands,” she said.